Friday, October 08, 2010

Halloween: My Contribution

I don't usually design anything for Halloween, except the little napkin rings (or bracelets) I did last year - I really enjoyed doing those, and the patterns are all on the Freebies page (my other blog), in case you missed it.

Also, on this blog, look under "napkin rings" on the labels list to see some of them finished.

This pumpkin has been shown before, and I intended it to be a little pillow inset, but now have lost the black Petite Frosty Rays I was using on the background - buried somewhere in the "sparkly threads" stash drawer, probably. It's set up as a 4-way bargello thing.

The pumpkin itself is petite Very Velvet, and the black background around it is YLI Black Shimmer Blend Ribbon Floss in basketweave. The little white dots you see are sparkles, not dandruff of canvas showing through. The face lit up by a candle is worked with DMC floss and Kreinik blending filament.

While we take for granted what the holidays and celebrations are about, I think we really know little of some of the symbolism and customs involved - and I have found it fascinating to research and study some of these. Also, it makes needlepoint renditions more meaningful and fun.

The carved pumpkin with a candle inside had its origin in the custom of medieval holy days in the practice of commemorating the souls in purgatory with candle lanterns carved from turnips. In the Celtic Halloween festivals, large turnips with carved faces and candles were placed in windows to ward off evil spirits.

In North America, pumpkins are more readily available, and much larger than turnips. However, this practice was originally associated with harvest time, and the American tradition preceded the Irish immigration during the great famine. The carved pumpkin was not associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century. I couldn't resist showing this picture from Nenah's Halloween Collection, as she is adding to it often, apparently. Do go see it HERE.

As for the origin of Halloween, I have known since childhood that it was the evening before All Saint's Day, which is the celebration of all souls, at which time we always went to church. I never really thought about why we celebrated the way we did all dressed up like ghoulies and ghosties, soliciting from door to door good things to eat. (treats) - it was lots of fun!

This custom originated in the medieval practice of poor folk going from door to door on Hallowmas (Nov. 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Saints Day. The custom of wearing costumes and masks originated in Ireland as a Celtic tradition of attempting to copy and placate the evil sprits. The term Halloween is from the "All Hallow's Eve" - the night before.

The Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween have some things in common, and occur in the same time period. They both are from cultural beliefs about death that later blended with Christian beliefs. They are both based on a belief that spirits return at that time of year.

However, in the Christian practice, the sprits were believed to be malevolent, and children were dressed to scare them away.

In Day of the Deal celebrations, the spirits are joyfully welcomed as family members that haven't been seen for a year. I remember, living in Texas, seeing down in the country cemetaries the children's graves covered with toys.

When we were living in Mexico City when my children were very young, it was a time that we allowed our domestics the several days off to celebrate, as it was a joyous occassion, and much feasting and visiting went on while awaiting the spirits of their loved ones. This was an example of the mestizo/campesino melding of ancient spiritual beliefs with Christianity. We had no trick or treating or Halloween celebration, but fortunately, my children were too young to remember doing that before we went to Mexico (a glorious experience).

I think now, having an insight into the meaning of these things, I will enjoy maybe stitching a few little Halloween pillow insets for myself.


Anonymous said...

Everyone always forgets where our customs come from. Thank you for the reminders. And your little pumpkin is just perfect!

LIZ said...

Thanks, Judy! I knew some of the origins, but you have now filled in the holes! Lovely to know these things. Your pumpkin is really cute!